Available Soon: Request your printed copies of the Idaho Freedom Index mailed to you!
Request Your Copies
Note to Dustin: This is currently only visible to logged in users for testing.
Click Me!

Government spending far outstrips tax cuts

Government spending far outstrips tax cuts

Fred Birnbaum
May 23, 2023

Governor Little frequently touts his tax cuts in public statements and press releases. To be sure, he has cut taxes while growing state spending significantly. If that sounds too good to be true, there are a few things to keep in mind.  

In his March 31st press release near the end of the 2023 session, the governor boasted, “No other state has given back more taxpayer money per capita than Idaho. We’ve turned back $2.7 billion in tax cuts to Idahoans just in the past three years.” 

The challenge in understanding this number is that the governor includes lots of one-time rebates in his total and not ongoing tax relief. 

Let’s try to decipher these numbers. 

According to an analysis by LSO, income tax rate reductions from 2021 and 2022, including the extra session, will provide $575 million of ongoing income tax relief. Due to the complexity of the 2023 session property tax cut bill, House Bill 292, it is difficult to arrive at a clean estimate of the ongoing impact. Some of the money will go directly to homeowners, while other funds are designed to take the pressure off of schools with funds to offset the need for new bonds and levies.

In his press release, the governor touts the figure as $117 million in ongoing relief. Taken together, this puts the ongoing relief at just under $700 million. If we choose to include the 2018 tax relief, the total is just over $800 million of ongoing income tax and property tax relief. The governor assumed office in January 2019, so this last addition predated his administration. 

However, let's look at the spending growth over the last several years. Not the one-time spending for the many projects touted by the governor for roads, water projects, and other infrastructure, but the ongoing spending. The way we do this is by examining the base budget, which is the foundation for the development of the total budget. Think of it this way — each year, the base budget is the starting point with which an agency builds its budget request for the next fiscal year. In fiscal year 2022 (FY22), the all-funds base budget was $9.27 billion. For FY24, the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2023, the base budget is $11.27 billion. You read that right; the base budget is up 21.6% or $2 billion in just two years, dwarfing the ongoing tax cuts. If we go back to FY19, the base budget was $7.67 billion. So in five years, it is up 46.9%, which is the ongoing spending increase. 

Now, some of you might point out that the total spending increase includes federal dollars, and we cut taxes from state funds. That is factually correct. However, Idaho has received nearly $23 billion in funds related to COVID and the public health emergency over the last few years, including money for individuals and businesses. And a significant sum of this borrowed and printed money has flowed into state coffers. General Fund revenues are up by over $2 billion just from FY20 to FY22, from $4.03 billion to $6.20 billion.

We point this out for two reasons. The tax cuts Idahoans have received are smaller than they could have been if ongoing spending had been restrained. Not the one-time projects, the ongoing spending. The base budget, which is the ongoing spending, needs to be thoroughly reviewed by the Legislature next session. The huge growth in Medicaid, for example, is now built into the base budget, which is why removing those who are ineligible is crucial to getting spending under control.  

View Comments
Idaho Freedom Foundation
802 W. Bannock Street, Suite 405, Boise, Idaho 83702
p 208.258.2280 | e [email protected]
COPYRIGHT © 2023 Idaho freedom Foundation
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram